Conducting Constructive Conference Calls

Author’s Assurance:  Everything you’re about to read happened as written (pretty much); all quotes reflect actual conversations.



In today’s Challenger Brand world, with colleagues and clients spread out all around the globe, rare are the times when a traditional meeting can be scheduled and all participants can sit around a boardroom table to discuss business face-to-face. 

More common is the dreaded multi-party conference call where teammates can join in regardless of where they are based. As convenient and efficient as this may be, the conference call may have become businesses most frustrating experience.

This conference call recently took place between three agency colleagues, including me, and four members of our client’s marketing department (all names are fictional):

Me: Bing! “Hi, who’s on the call?”
Colleague #1: Bing! “Hi, this is Betty.”
Colleague #2: Bing! “Hey, Betty…”
Client #1: Bing! “Donna is on.”
Client #2: Bing! “Oh, hey, Donna, did you get my text?”
Me: “Who just joined?”
Colleague #1: Is that you, Jen?”
Client #3: Bing! Bark, bark, bark!
Client #1: “Who sent me a text?”
Colleague #2: “Yeah, it’s me.”
Me: “Hey, Jen. Did someone else join?”
Phone Network: “Everyone has left the call. Goodbye.”
Colleague #1: Bing! “This is Betty. Sorry, I got disconnected.”
Client #3: Bark, bark, bark! “This is Pete, I’m still on. Quiet, Rodrigo!”
Client #2: “This is Will, I sent the text about regulatory review.”
Me: “Ok, I think we have everyone…”
Client #4: Bing! “This is Kelly; sorry I’m late.”
Me: Scratchy static! “Hi, Kel…on the call…purpose is…together by Friday…”
Colleague #2: “You’re breaking up, we’re getting every third word…”
Me: Bing! “Sorry about that, had to dial back in.”
Client #3: Bark, bark, bark! “I’ve got a hard stop in 10 minutes so…Rodrigo, come!
Client #1: “Will, what did regulatory say?”
Client #2: “They said we are not compliant, and…”
Phone Network: “Everyone has left the call. Goodbye.”
Me: “Did we lose everybody?”
Client #4: Bing! “Sorry, that was me, I got disconnected…multitasking.”
Me: “Let’s regroup…Betty, Jen, you on?”
Colleague #1: “Yup.”
Colleague #2: “I’m here.”
Me: “Do we have Donna, Will, Pete and Kelly?”
Client #2: “Will here.”
Client #1: “Donna’s on, but I’ve got to jump on another call.”
Client #4: “Kelly’s here.”
Client #3: Bark, bark, bark! “Pete’s here but gotta run, someone’s at my door.” Bark, bark, bark!
Me: “Allright, looks like we’ve got to reschedule this call. I’ll send out a meeting invite with some scheduling options.”

Phone Network: “Everyone has left the call. Goodbye.”

Assuming you’re able to find a date/time for the seven meeting participants to agree on, how do you risk going through this unproductive, frustrating experience all over again? 

The conference call is a business reality and requires some planning to ensure value is received for the time committed. To help in the planning of your next conference call, below please find ten tips for conducting constructive conference calls:

  1. Use a trusted tele-network provider, one you’ve used before and allows for unlimited participants. Know how it works and how to troubleshoot, if necessary.
  2. Set an agenda and send to the participants at least one hour prior to the scheduled start of the call.
  3. Agree on the call’s precise start and end times and post them on both the meeting invite and agenda.
  4. Keep the call short. Try not to tackle too much in one call. A 30-minute conference call can seem like an hour and a half.
  5. Identify a clear call leader/host/ringmaster. There must be a single voice that keeps the agenda on track, keeps one voice talking at a time and monitors time.
  6. Be sure participants are conducting the call from a quiet, private location.
  7. Require all participants to place their phones on “mute” when not speaking.
  8. Encourage participants to say their name before contributing.
  9. Avoid asking questions that will prolong the call or lead it astray. Questions like, “Any comments?” “We haven’t heard from Will, what do you think?” “Did we miss anything?”
  10. Record the call and share with participants immediately following the call.

If you could use some help planning and conducting constructive conference calls, just contact us here.

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